Happy birthday, Pamela Colman Smith!

Tarot cards with the famous images designed by Pamela Colman Smith.

Tarot cards with the famous images designed by Pamela Colman Smith.

Pamela Colman Smith, c. 1912; she died on September 18, 1951.

Pamela Colman Smith, c. 1912

Pamela Colman Smith, best known for her illustration of the tarot deck that now bears her name [Rider-Waite-Smith] and has become the standard deck nearly all readers begin and learn with and continue to use throughout their reading careers, was born on February 16, 1878. Born in England and raised in New York, she studied art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She returned to England when her father died in 1899 and continued her work as an illustrator which she had begun in the US. Her work included illustrating works by Bram Stoker and she began designing costumes and stage sets for the theatre company Stoker was affiliated with.

Her friend Yeats introduced her to the Heremetic Order of the Golden Dawn and she joined in 1901. Having met Waite, he commissioned her to produce a tarot deck in 1909. Published by William Rider & Son of London, the deck was the first to depict illustrations for all the cards, Minor Arcana as wellas Major, and has remained the most popular and easily available deck.

The images she designed for the Major Arcana were evidently based on Waite’s detailed instructions but he simply gave her a list of the meanings associated with the Minor Arcana cards and left her to design the images for those herself. Most likely, she drew all the images in pen-and-ink and then used watercolor to complete the work.

Shortly after the publication of the tarot deck, Pamela converted to Roman Catholicism. She died in Cornwall, 18 September 1951 penniless and in debt, evidently having received no royalties from the card images she had produced and for which she had been paid a flat fee.

Illustration for the first edition of Bram Stoker's Lair of the White Worm in 1911

Illustration for the first edition of Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm in 1911

A sample reading, from the spring of 2012:

A simple 3-card reading for the Mega Millions winner, as yet TBA:

8 of Swords (reversed)– unhappiness, instability, unpredictable or unexpected events

10 of Swords (reversed)– success, power, authority!

3 of Cups– victory, comfort/consolation, encouragement

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS POINT: a very “down” period leads someone, probably not a regular lottery player, to buy a ticket (or several) for the historic Mega Millions prize

THE PRESENT MOMENT: the winning ticket! And all that comes with that…

GOING FORWARD: the winner’s new-found resources provide a sense of security and a reprieve from the struggles that preceeded the ticket purchase; with these new resources, the winner is able to take a chance on a new life direction and this example helps others around the winner to take similar chances as well…. “A rising tide lifts all the boats!”

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